JCC 2023, promoting African and Arab cinema: Successes, achievements and hopes
Carthage Film Festival (JCC) is the oldest film festival in Africa and the Arab world: And the first Festival which, after awarding its supreme prize, the Tanit d'Or, in 1966, to the first feature film from Sub-Saharan Africa, "La Noire de..." by Senegalese director Ousmane Sembene, has chosen to defend at all levels, and without interruption throughout its history, African and Arab "expressive" films reflecting the artistic point of view of a filmmaker, rather than the dominant commercial cinema of entertainment and escapism. In more than half a century of existence, the JCCs have revealed some of the greatest names in African and Arab cinema, before going on to win international recognition: such as Mali's Souleymane Cissé, who won a prize at Carthage in 1972 for his first short film, before going on to win a prize at Cannes in 1987, or Egypt's Youssef Chahine, who won a Golden Tanit at the JCCs in 1970, before going on to win the Golden Bear at Berlin eight years later...
Founded by Tahar Cheriaa, President of the Tunisian Federation of Film Clubs, then Head of the Cinema Department at the Ministry of Cultural Affairs headed by Si Chedly Klibs, the JCC continued to be run for a long time by members of the Federation who had become civil servants at the Ministry, with a privileged relationship with the Tunisian public, following the spirit and fervor of cinephilia specific to film clubs, with film presentations and debates remaining at the heart of the festival. By the early 1990s, civil servants had given way to Tunisian film professionals, producers, directors, film critics and teachers, always organized by the Ministry of Cultural Affairs and financially managed by the CNCI, making the JCC one of the few festivals in the South run directly by Tunisian producers and filmmakers. Since then, the JCC and its original objectives have been faithfully supported by Tunisian cinema professionals and film associations, with an unwavering cohesion and solidarity that is renewed with each new session ....
1- 2023 : An "exceptional" session, celebrating a Centenary
The 2023 session of the JCC will be an "exceptional" one, mainly because of the size of the event, which, alongside all the other competitions and the main sections of the festival, will feature a section celebrating the "Centenary of Tunisian Cinema: December 1922-December 2023": This is to commemorate a long journey that began with the first Tunisian fiction film "Zohra" by Samama Chikly, one of the very first films made by a native on the African continent, which saw its first release on Tunisian screens in December 1922.
Organized autonomously within the JCC by the Cinématheque Tunisienne, under the management of the CNCI, the centenary celebration will include screenings of restored films, possible tributes to filmmakers, producers, technicians, distributors, actors and actresses past and present, filmed newsreels about film shoots in Tunisia, and film activity, including the history of the JCC itself, photo exhibitions and rare items, among others: The aim is to take stock of the progress made by Tunisian cinema, which is still considered by international critics, thanks to its directors and cinema entrepreneurs, to be one of the most innovative, daring and original among the cinemas of its region, until 2023, the new year of confirmation and recognition of Tunisian cinema on an international scale.
2- A demanding return to the "Essential" values of the Festival: the defense and promotion of artistic cinema from Africa and the Arab world.
Directed by Tunisian film professionals, still organized by the Ministry of Cultural Affairs and managed by the Centre National du Cinéma et de l'image CNCI, the JCC's priority, thirteen years after the death of its founder, Tahar Cheriaa, remains the presentation to the public of the best recent African and Arab films, for which the festival's official competitions are reserved, giving priority, not to commercial films of escapism and entertainment, aimed above all at financial gain, but in keeping with the festival's long-standing policy, to films expressing the realities and cultures of their countries, seen from the artistic point of view of a director, whatever the genre to which these films belong: Fiction, documentary, docu-fiction, etc. This promotion also extends, in a specific Cine Promesse section, to the films of cinema students, who are also bearers of artistic future, for our cinematographies, through present and future technologies...
3- A reinforcement of its "Carthage Pro" professional platform, offering a space for discovery, meeting and exchange between professionals interested in African and Arab cinemas.
Chabaka (support for projects in development), Takmil (support for projects in post- production) and Meet the Talents (pitch preparation and presentation of first feature film projects) workshops provide an opportunity to discover a selection of the most authentic and innovative film projects from the African continent and the Arab countries.
At the end of the three days of presentations and discussions, an international jury will award development and finishing grants from various festival partner donor organizations.
Carthage Talks is a forum for reflection on issues specific to the realities of the African continent and the Arab world industries. It brings together the various existing initiatives in the region aiming to seeing future collaborations emerge and foster the production and circulation of African and Arab films across the continent, in the Arab countries and internationally.
Carthage Talks is also an opportunity for encounters with experienced filmmakers (Master-classes), inviting them to share their inspiring experiences.
Chabaka (support for projects in development), Takmil (support for projects in post-production) and Meet the Talents (pitch preparation and presentation of first feature film projects) workshops provide an opportunity to discover a selection of the most authentic and innovative cinematographic projects. At the end of the three days of presentations and discussions, an international jury will award development and finishing grants from various festival partner donor organizations.
Carthage Talks is a forum for reflection on issues specific to the realities of the African continent and the Arab world. Panel discussions bring together the various existing initiatives on the continent and in Arab countries, with a view to seeing future collaborations emerge to support the production and circulation of African and Arab films across the continent, in Arab countries and internationally.
Carthage Talks is also an opportunity for meetings with experienced filmmakers (Master-classes), enabling them to share their inspiring experiences.
4-Refocusing on the essence of the Festival, with a less dispersed dimension: Defense and promotion of the fundamentals as a priority, without excluding the Openness of always.
To this end, turning our backs on the tendency towards "gigantism" that has marked some
previous editions, with the risk of dispersion towards a sometimes disproportionate number
of cinematographies other than African and Arab, to the detriment of the visibility of the
official competitions, which remain the very soul and identity of the Festival, the 2023
session will strive to return to the normal size of the majority of its editions: But also without
losing the openness it has always shown through films presented out of competition, first and
foremost to the cinemas of the South, whose concerns are often very close to our own, nor its
openness to the best recent auteur films in international cinema: The aim is to meet the
expectations of the demanding public that has come to know the JCC, a public that has built
up, over more than half a century, a phenomenon rarely seen elsewhere, that of a veritable
"mass cinephilia": A very large public, with an ever-awakening curiosity, often storming the
cinemas to discover and sometimes triumph over new African and Arab films, whose authors
are still unknown to them, and who benefit from no prior publicity like those of Western
films in international sections that are not competitive and open to the world. In order to
meet the legitimate expectations of this informed public, which is renewed from generation to
generation, right down to the youngest, the JCC will endeavor to further improve the way
films are presented to the public, through an appropriate professional presentation of the films
and their directors, and debates of sufficient length immediately following the film with the
A general coordination effort for the relative decentralization of the JCC in the regions will also be undertaken, with interested regions taking concrete responsibility for such decentralization whenever possible.
5-Acquisitions and hopes:
As I said earlier, one of the JCC's greatest achievements, and one of its proudest
achievements, is to have succeeded in building up over half a century an informed and
demanding public capable of breaking into cinemas, not to see a commercial film, but to
discover a new film from Africa and the Arab world, often by an unknown author and with
no prior publicity: As a result, Carthage has become one of the few places where visitors,
even those who have already seen a film at other festivals, can experience first-hand the
unique fervor of a film from the South welcomed by a cinema-loving audience from the
South! Thanks to "Carthage Pro", the JCC is also an opportunity for visitors to discover in advance
the projects of future films from the South, and new films awaiting completion, which may
well reveal the great filmmakers of tomorrow.
This is why we hope that the 2023 session will be both a time for consolidating what has already been achieved, and a time for continuing to support the dreams and hopes of tomorrow's filmmakers.
Honorary Chairman of the 2023 session of Carthage Film Festival